As the creative advisor for Swedish retail chain H&M, Ann-Sofie Johansson holds one of the top fashion design jobs in the world.
Starting out on the shop floor, she worked her way up the ranks until she found herself in the top job, overseeing all aspects of design within the business. FQ spoke to the friendly Swede about what her job entails, what one wardrobe item every woman should own and what H&M is doing in terms of meeting customer demand for responsible consumerism and sustainability:
FQ: As the creative advisor for H&M, what does a typical day look like for you?
Ann-Sofie: One of the best things with my job is that it varies a lot and every day is different. You never know what to expect. It is therefore hard for me to describe a typical day. At H&M it is all about the team. I have the privilege to work with the most inspiring and talented colleagues at our H&M Head Office in Stockholm.
What is your signature work outfit?
I like to be comfortable when I am at work. A nice shirt and a pair of trousers is my everyday uniform. I am all about androgynous, masculine and clean cuts with nice accessories. Adding unique and stylish accessories can make even the dullest outfit more inspiring.
What is one item you’d recommend every woman has in her wardrobe?
I think you should always go for the most classical and timeless pieces, such as a nice suit, a blazer, a white shirt and a pair of nice trousers. It may sound boring but you can definitely build your wardrobe around that and then add more trendy pieces and accessories to it
Being a global brand, how do you design collections which strike the balance between being trend-led but also ensuring these designs will work in various markets?
Today fashion is global and we are often inspired by the same things. We see the same street style images, we watch the same TV series, read the same blogs and listen to the same music. What works in one market does not necessarily have to be completely different in another market. Our fashion should always inspire our customers to explore their personal style. We aim for delivering a good balance between modern basics, current fashion and the very latest trends and we see that our fashion is appreciated around the world.
New Zealanders are renowned for keeping it simple when it comes to fashion – black is our go to! What can we do to incorporate a bit more excitement and experimentalism into our wardrobes?
Then you are similar to us Swedes! Well, the KENZO x H&M collaboration, a collection bursting with print and colour, is a great inspiration to do just that!
How is H&M approaching the growing need for sustainable clothing and responsible consumerism?
We want our customers to be proud of what they wear, not just for how it looks but also for how it’s been made and being conscious in every part of the fashion-making process is at the core of our business. While all our products are made with consideration for the people who make them and for the environment, we also offer extra sustainable options like for example our Conscious Exclusive collections. We also offer our customers the opportunity to hand in their used garments in H&M stores across the globe through our garment collecting initiative as we believe fashion is far too precious to end up in landfills.
There’s such a shift right now around diversity with many brands challenging body, gender, racial and age norms. Is this something you’re now more conscious of when designing for H&M and how are you factoring this in?
We want to encourage our customers to explore their personal style and are happy to see our customers mix and match from different departments to find their own fashion expression. We strive to offer a wide range of designs and styles with the hope that everyone finds something that suits them.